Converting Characters Per Minute to Words Per Minute

My main project, The New Leaf Journal, runs on WordPress. Back in the early days of the site in 2020, I used to display Estimated Reading Time above posts. I did this with a shortcode that derived from a larger plugin that added custom blocks to WordPress. I ditched that plugin because it was heavy and I did not need it - leaving behind many shortcodes that I am still cleaning up more than one year later.

But I digress.

I had been re-designing my site a bit, and I thought it'd be nice to have estimated reading times again. This is not important enough to figure out how to implement manually (I am lucky that I did not break the site making a custom plugin to make a custom post type), so I looked for a plugin. I had several criteria for a plugin solution:

There are surprisingly few estimated reading time plugins on WordPress. Only one met my criteria. With a name like "Insert Estimated Reading Time" - how could it not? Although Insert Estimated Reading Time has not seen an update in 3 years, the test that I rely on showed no code errors or warnings. The plugin has a single purpose - to calculate and show estimated reading time. It can be configured from the options to do this automatically with no shortcodes (shortcodes are terrible), so there will be nothing to clean up if decide to implement a different approach (i.e., not be lazy and do it myself).

The plugin had but one flaw.

The plugin is Japanese. My theme is Japanese too - so that's not a problem in and of itself. But being a Japanese plugin does present an issue with estimated reading time calculations. The plugin bases its estimated reading time estimate on characters rather than words. This makes sense in Japanese. It does not in English.

I really did not care to try to figure out how to modify the plugin to count words instead of characters at this time. Instead, I sought to see if I could find a character-per-minute number that would spit out reasonable estimated reading time estimates for English text (400 characters per minute most definitely did not). After running a few articles through estimators and comparing to the plugin output, I determined that somewhere in the range of 1520 to 1600 characters per minute generally yields about the same estimated reading time estimates as most tools that account for words. I set it at 1600 - I doubt anyone will know the difference if I don't tell them.

However, because I'm honest, I described all of this in a leaflet micropost.

Relevant links (all https):

Leaflet Micropost
WordPress plugin page


You may email comments: musings [at] naferrell [dot] com.

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